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Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

The winning of Lucia : a love story online

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

**Wcll, well, it isn't every couple that is either one
or a pair. There's Ann Idle, for instance."

"I have thought Dick Idle and you very friendly
the last week or two. I was sure you had forgiven
him."

"Not II I am none of the forgiving sort. But
we could not speak our minds in the Colonel's house.
My opinions of Dick are over twenty years old; they
will keep a little longer easy."

"I dare say they will. Ann, how long will it take
you to put the house so that it can be safely left?"

"About a week or ten days."

"Then you will hurry up to London. I shall be
impatient for you."

"Why?"

"I want to get out of London and see what other
parts of the world are like."

"The world is all made of land and water. One
river is like another river and one mountain like
another mountain ; yes, and taking it broad and long,
one big city is very like any other big city."

"I mean the people of the world, Ann. I am
tired of rivers and mountains. I want to see men
and women."

"You will find them much of a muchness. Some
are prettier than others to look at — better dressed
or better taught — but everywhere, and anyhow, noth-
ing will prevent them acting after their kind."

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"How?"

"A man will act like a man and a woman like a
woman* An Englishman will act like an Englishman
and a Frenchman like a Frenchman, and you must
take them as you meet them. Now, you know some-
thing of an Englishman, stick to what you can
fathom."

"I shall stick to Lord Fenwick, of course."

"Of course."

"How uncomfortable all Is now I I wish It was
Saturday morning."

"Does Lord Fenwick go with you?"

"We go to the station together. He will take the
northern train ten minutes before we take the Lon-
don express."

"I did not know exactly."

"I think every chair and table In the house knows.
Nothing has been moved out of Its place, yet there
Is the most positive air of change and desertion. I
looked into the library as I passed It this afternoon
and a book was lying open on the table. It had a
look of being done with, and I lifted it gently and put
it In its place; then without Intending It, I looked
round the room as If saying good-bye to It."

"Aye, It's queer what airs a house can put on. You
wouldn't think bits of wood and satin would look so
lonely as I have seen them look, and the hearthstone
and the brass things belonging to it showing plainly

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they could speak their mind if we could only under-
stand them. I have knelt down in my bonnet and
cloak and lit a few sticks of wood just to comfort
them a bit till I could manage to get a good coal fire
on. Yes, I have, and you needn't laugh at me. Folks
miss a good deal that can't hear and feel the dumb
life about them."

"I don't think it is dumb, Ann. How the trees sigh
and moan and complain before a storm I And how
they whisper to the birds that build in their green pal-
aces I If you strike a stone, it cries out; and a piece
of brass, what a noise it makes I Dr. Studley told me
everything had a voice that its Maker understood,
and then he made me read aloud to him the first six
verses of the nineteenth psalm.''

"Well, Dr. Studley knows a good deal, but there
are shepherds on the fells, just common folk, that
know more about common things than he does,
missee."

During these few last days there were frequent vis-
Itings between Lucia and Ann. Lord Fenwick heard
them laughing and talking and at last had a little
spasm of jealousy. Why was Lucia not talking to
him? His thoughts began to trouble him a little.
He remembered that she had gone off with Lucy
Pearson often lately and left him alone. As for Ann,
he was really angry with Ann. She was always want-
ing Miss Ragnor, and Miss Ragnor had lately always

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been willing to go to Ann, remaining with her often
far longer than he thought any household question
could require attention. Consequently she was put-
ting Ann before him. How could that be? He
thought it over, and actually came to a correct diag-
nosis of the condition.

*'I have not been quite as attentive to all her whims
as she expected — I thought she understood how per-
fect my love for her was. I don't believe she has
ever been the same since my poor mother died; she
has not forgiven our delayed marriage — I have never
been able to persuade her I could not avoid it by any
means — she always smiles sarcastically and says,
*Love could have found a way.* What did she mean?
I recollect Lothian asking me why I did not marry
her as soon as I received the letter about my mother's
serious condition. How could I do such a thing?
Mother might have been dead at that very moment —
Perhaps she is getting tired of me! I have hot
been as bright as usual, but she ought to remember
I have had two severe sicknesses since I first knew
her. But I will now be very attentive. There are
only two days left, and I dare say it will do her good
to miss me for a few weeks — she may go all over
Europe, and not find another lover to put in the place
of Arthur Fenwick, Lord of Fenwick and De Mon-
tane. And he rose and straightened himself and ran
his hand through his still beautiful hair and felt satis-

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iiecL Lucia loved him, and he was too noble and too
rich a lover to be lightly cast oflF.

But he did not take into account the youth of his
promised bride, nor yet the progressive ideas women
had been greedily assimilating the last ten years. To
these ideas he had not given the slightest attention.
And he certainly considered them quite outside the
horizon of a girl of Lucia's social standing and pa-
trician expectations. He kept the promise, however,
that he had made to himself and spent the last two
days of his visit in wooing Lucia with all the fervor
of his first infatuation. So their parting was full of
love and hope, and passionate promises of an early
meeting wherever Lucia should appoint it.

At the time of their parting, nothing definite as to
their plan of travel had been arrived at. They were
going to London to the Savoy Hotel and from that
point of advantage would decide on their future
movements. The Colonel's methodical temper did
not approve this undecided trip, but to Lucia it ap-
peared to be the delightful element of the whole pro-
ject. "Today we arc going to London,*' she said
joyously, "and tomorrow will grow out of today.
And if you are going to travel for pleasure, you do
not talk it away and make the journey stale before
you begin it."

So they went to the Savoy with the understanding
that they would remain there until Ann joined them.

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So far, it pleased the Colonel who always declared he
could find his world In London. He was a member
of The Rag, the famous club of the Army, and he
spent his first day in London among the old friends
he found there. Lucia was, she said, very tired and
she resolved to stay in her room and consider her
wardrobe* ^*I dare say it is a mass of crushes and
creases/' she said to her father; and he asked, as a
mere matter of form, "Who packed your trunks,
Lucia?" "Why, Ann packed them, of course," she
answered, and the Colonel smiled and said con-
fidently, "Then there will not be a crush or crease
in the whole five trunks, I am sure."

"Six trunks, father. Please keep the proper num-
ber in your mind or I may lose one of them."

A very slight investigation proved to Lucia that
her father's opinion of Ann's packing was a correct
one, and she re-locked the six trunks, put her front
hair in crimps, wrote a long letter to Lord Fenwick,
and then loosely and comfortably gowned, lay down
on the sofa to think. The first pressing emergency
would be her toilet for the restaurant dinner. She
knew her father would seriously object to having his
dinner in public. "He will want it laid in the parlor,
of course, and I might just as well be at Abbot's Rest.
I wonder how I am to manage father !"

She made two or three plans with this object in
view and was dissatisfied and uncertain, but she ar-

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

rayed herself splendidly and then waited the hour
with that kind of confidence which general good for-
tune inspires. And as usual Destiny was kind to her.
She was going down the corridor between the parlor
and her dressing-room, lyhen she heard a familiar
voice call in an excited manner:

"Liicw/ Lucia RagnorP^

Turning quickly she saw a lady hurrying towards
her, and the next moment she knew it was Mrs. St.
Clair. They kissed each other and then asked at the
same time, "When did you come here?" and an-
swered exactly together, "This morning, only this
morning."

"And Mr. St Clair?"

"He is here with me and quite welL How is Colo-
nel Ragnor?"

"Quite well. He is in London somewhere, I sup-
pose at The Rag. I think he lives there when he is
not with me."

"Naturally, being an army man. How is Lord
Fenwick?"

"He has been ill since the death of his mother, but
is now better."

"Is he with you?"

"No."

"When were you married? I never heard Vord
nor wittens' of the affair, never even got an invita-
tion nor yet cake or card."

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''I am not married. And my last letter from you
was dated Quebec.**

"No, New York. I wrote from New York."

"That letter has not arrived yet.**

"And you are not married yet?"

"No. The day before the one set for our mar-
riage, Lady Fenwick died.**

"Oh! Ohl How unfortunate! You must tell
me all about it.**

"Yes, certainly, but not here. Come to my room
after dinner.**

"You have not asked after Geoffrey yet?'*

"I hope he is well and happy.'*

"Why, here he comes to answer for himself!'*
and Lucia, involuntarily turning at the unexpected in-
formation, found him almost at her side. They
looked with great interest at each other. Geoffrey
wondered how to address her. Was she still Miss
Ragnor, or would he have to call her Lady Fenwick?
An instant of repugnance followed, and then Mrs.
St. Clair said hurriedly : .

"Luda Is staying here, Geoffrey, and you must
help me to give her a really pleasant time. The
Colonel isn*t to be depended on when he is anywhere
near The Rag. Where is he now, Lucia?**

Lucia laughingly answered, "At The Rag, I sup-
pose. But he promised to be home at seven for
dinner.**



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"It is now at least half-past seven. Come down
with me."

"Perhaps he has arrived while I have been chat-
tering to you. Let us go and see.**

It was but a few steps and they found the Colonel
rather impatiently waiting for his daughter. Then
this thing happened — Geoffrey went for his uncle
and the united friends dined together. And after
dinner Geoffrey took the ladies to the opera, and Mr.
St. Clair and Colonel Ragnor smoked and talked the
evening away.

At first there was a certain constraint between
Lucia and Geoffrey. They had both changed very
much In appearance. Geoffrey was greatly im-
proved. He had been traveling for some months
with his uncle and aunt, and had acquired all of that
fine polish travel imparts to fine natures. He was
more subdued in manner, yet the sense of power that
pervaded his every movement was actually increased.
It was a pleasure to walk at his side, the bending of
his large head, the touch of his strong hand, the sense
of soul and life In his voice, were all that women
ardently desire. They expressed safety, comfort,
even affectionate watchfulness; any woman, however
naturally timid, would have walked through a mob
and felt secure at his side. For the Inner Man had
been busy making himself a noble fleshly vesture and
Lucia wondered and admired.

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So Ann was not as eagerly welcomed as she ex-
pected to be, and her keen senses took in the situa*
tion at once. She said to herself that there was dan-
ger in it and she asked Lucia if she did not think so.
Lucia denied this suggestion with some temper. But
after a few days* observation Ann made a remark
to the Colonel of the same character; and he was
more alive to the possible results of so close a daily
companionship. He made no positive answer to the
insinuation, but sat down to take another smoke and
think over the route of travel most likely not to
attract the St. Clair party.

"There is Russia," he said to himself. "The St.
Clairs have been in Russia as late as last May and
June; they could not want to go there again now —
or at any other time. I will propose Russia to Lucia.
I think she will like the idea;'' and Lucia entering
the parlor at the very moment he n[iade this decision,
he plunged into the subject with the air of one who
is sure he is going to give a delightful surprise.

Lucia stood still in her advance to listen, and when
the offer with all its blandishments had been ex-
plained, she looked at the Colonel with astonishment.

"Why, father, what an idea !" And she laughed
as she continued, "Go to Russia in midwinter. Who
ever heard of anything so preposterous? If we
reached St. Petersburg alive or with all our toes and
fingers and our noses and ears unfrozen, you would

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be helpless with liieiimatisiiL You know Dr. Stud-
ley said Abbot's Rest was far too cold for you; St.
Petersburg is much colder."

"To be sure," he admitted, "I had forgotten the
climate ; St. Petersburg must be put off until summer.
Where would you like to go, Luda? This journey
is for your pleasure. We will let you choose the road
to that end.''

"Thank you, father," and she sat down beside
him, and clasped his long brown hand in hers. "I
will ask Mrs. St. Clair," she continued. "The St.
Clairs have been everywhere, I think. She said yes-
terday she could go nowhere fresh, unless it was to
Dalmatia or Portugal. I never heard of anyone go-
ing to Portugal, did you, father?"

"No," he answered dubiously.

"Nor Dahnatia either, father?"

"I don't know anything about Dalmatia. But we
want a change and you want to see the world. Mrs.
St. Clair might give you some good advice today.
By the bye, don't you think we had better separate
from the St. Clairs?"

"Oh, father, they are so kind and so delightful.
Why should we part?"

"When is Arthur coming?"

"He asked me in his last letter where we expected
to be about the middle of March."

"Do you not understand that Arthur might be an-
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noyed if not offended by your very constant compan-
ionship with Geoffrey Gardiner?"

"You mean "

'^I mean he might be jealous. I should be fighting
jealous if in his place."

Lucia laughed merrily. "You dear, old-fashioned
man," she said. "Of course, you would, but lovers
do not fight duels these days. Arthur has the most
perfect confidence in me."

"Then you ought to deserve it."

"So I do. I tell Arthur everything. He knows
exactly whom I go to plays and operas with. I tell
him about our shopping, riding, and walking. He is
quite satisfied."

"And you— do not consider yourself in danger?"

"In what danger, pray?"

"Of falling in love with Geoffrey. I consider him
a very great temptation to any girl."

"I am Lucia Ragnor, and not *any girl.' I am
astonished that you should think of me so unworth*
ily. Arthur does not wrong me in such ways. He
trusts me and I tell him wherever I go with Geoffrey.
He is not jealous of me. Good for him that he is
not, for if he was, I would see that he had reasons
enough for the detestable passion. I am going with
Geoffrey and Mrs. St. Clair to lunch at the Star and
Garter Inn today, and when I return here I shall
write Arthur and tell him all that happened. I may

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

even tell him our conversation. He would smile at
it, I am sure."

Then the Colonel threw away his cigar and said
he was going to his club. There was a slight touch
of offence in their adieus. And Lucia went to Mrs.
St Clair and made a complaint against old people
In general and her father in particular. The Colonel
was not happy. He thought Lucia's excessive confi-
dence suspicious, and her ready offence still more so.
"We had better get away from the St. Clairs as soon
as possible," he thought, and he resolved that day
to talk to some of his old friends about a nice, quiet
place to pass a few weeks in.

It was a new friend, however, that gave him the
information he wanted, a military man whose ac-
quaintance he had recently made. "I am looking for
a place in which to spend a few weeks pleasantly,"
he said, **and I wonder if you can tell me where to
find it. I do not want to go too far away."

"You need not go far to find an earthly paradise."

"How far?"

"Seventy miles from Liverpool — a sliort sail to a
little island in the Irish Sea."

"You mean the Isle of Man?"

"Yes, one of the loveliest spots on earth. Just the
place for you. No rheumatism there. Finest climate
in the world for an Englishman — ^highest tempera-
ture in July and August 58.7 degrees, lowest temper-

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aturc in November and December 45.2 degrees —
reason for this favorable condition the island's shores
are nursed in the bosom of the warm Gulf Stream
which flows from Mexico mto the Irish Channel.
You can't live and breathe there even for a week with-
out feeling a marked invigoration and a wonderful
flow of fine spirits. You don't know how to get up
your English blues in its glorious sunshine and
warmth. Go up to Castletown. You won't want to
leave it in a hurry. I run over there for a few days
every month. My wife makes me. She says I
wouldn't be fit to live with if I didn't."

"Thank you, Aubrey. What kind of people live
there?"

"The natives are as fine a race of fishers as you
could find out of Fife and Shetland; the settlers are
the picked men and women of the English people."

"What do you mean?"

"What I say; there are in Castletown mostly re-
tired naval and military officers, and there is a regi-
ment always in Castletown barracks because that
town is the seat of government. You see the island
has its own House of Parliament and its Governor.
These picturesque elements will be altered soon. You
had better go to the island while It is a romance.
Miss Ragnor will find folk lore, and fairy lore in
the hearts of all the Manx people. It is a wonderful
resting place."

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

**Thank you, Aubrey I I will try it. As I go back
to my hotel I will buy some books about the place
and Lucia shall read them to me/'

He bought the books as he went back to the Savoy,
but he found Lucia in full dress for the opera, and
she made a little mouth and shook her head at the
proposal that she should read to the Colonel. She
was, however, displeased with herself and during an
interlude in the performance said to Mrs. St Clair:

*^I am unhappy. My father's patient look of dis-
appointment haunts me. I cannot bear to remember
it"

*Tou can make it up to him. If he wants to go to
the Isle of Man go with him without coaxing or
pouting. I have heard that life is loveable and live-
able there when it isn't bearable in the rest of Eng-
land. And you could not escape the opera tonight.
It is a special performance and Geoffrey had succeed-
ed in getting specially good seats. Don't worry.
You can put all right with the Colonel by a kiss and
a smile and a promise to go where he wishes to go."

"No, I cannot I know he has been unhappy to-
night, and tomorrow I cannot undo tonight."

The morning was fortunately very wet, just rain
interrupted by more rain, and the Manx books were
welcome. Lucia read them aloud, and the St. Clairs
coming in heard sufficient to give them a desire to
visit the right little, tight little island.

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In twenty-four hours there was an enthusiastic
preparation for Douglas, the Manx steamboat port,
and Lucia was quite happy in the prospect they
offered. The only person pretending anything but
pleasure was Ann. She had expected to go to France,
Italy, Germany, and every other comer of the conti-
nent worth seeing; to go from the British Isles to
a still smaller island did not equal her expectations.
She disparaged the whole event so decidedly in her
looks and movements that Lucia asked :

"Do you want to go to Manxland, Ann?"

"I do not, not at all, miss."

"Have you ever been there?"

"No, miss, but I have known several very respect-
able men and women who had been taken there — ^un-
willingly like — ^by the people they lived with. The
place itself is good enough, for God made it like as
if it was a garden, and you cannot get out of the
sight of the sea, go where you will. I am thinking
many an English nobleman's estate is as large as
the whole. island, perhaps Fenwick itself is, taldng
in bog and heather, land and water, meadow and
mountain — ^but — ^but — " and then a heavy sigh.

"But what, Ann?"

"You may praise the place as much as you like and
m gainsay nothing against your opinion, but the
people who live there ! "

"What is the matter with the people, Ann?"

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'^The natives are good enough — silent, industrlouSi
God-fearing fishers — it*s the quality people I object
to— three-fourths of them arc only half-pay naval and
army officers and the like o' them.*'

"My father is on half pay, Ann. An officer of
the army or navy is a gentleman. You must not
speak of gentlemen and ladies in such a disrespectful
way."

"Colonel Ragnor, thank God, has an estate at his
back, and money behind that. Colonel Ragnor's half
pay is neither here nor there, and what I am want-
ing to say is — well, the ladies won't dress up to your
mark, and won't be fit company for you who are used
to tip-on-top society."

"Do not take any care on that subject, Ann. Mrs.
St. Clair and I are going to buy tweed suits, and
spend most of our time in open boats on the sea.
There is splendid line fishing for ladies there."

"Excuse me, miss, are the St. Clairs to go with
us?"

"Certamly."

"Fm very sorry!"

''Annr

"Yes, I am! It isn't fair to Lord Fenwick."

•What isn't fair?"

"That big, red-haired Scot dangling after you
from early to late; threading your needle when you
sew, carrying your parasol when you walk, at your

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beck and call for opera, theateri ride, and drive, and
what not. If Lord Fenwick knew it "

"He knows all about it. I tell him cverythmg.**

"Then why is he not here?"

"He is busy looking after his acres and his money
and prosecuting two thievish servants. I hear the
steward is going overseas to hard labor."

"And Jack Lander?"

"The gamekeeper? He goes to Dartmouth for
two years and hard labor."

"Poor Jackl That sentence will cost Fenwick
every vote in Fenwick town."

"Justice must be maintained, Ann."

"It is a great comfort that we are taught to pray
for forgiveness and mercy. I wouldn't pray at all
if I had been told to pray for justice — not 1 1 Not
a word I" and she emphasized her opinion, with a
positive shake of her head.

"Well, Ann, I would rather talk of our short trip
to Manxland. I feel sure we are going to have a
delightful time."

In a large measure this faith was abundantly real-
ized. Life in Castletown was so simple yet so varied,
so intimate and yet so safe-guarded, by the recog-
nized restraints from that familiarity which breeds
contempt that good-nature was never imposed upon.
Colonel Ragnor was immediately free of the officer's
mess, and Lucia was the belle and beauty of the

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pretty, informal dances that took place so frequently
either at the Government House or at the private
dwellings of the officers, or of some of the wealthy
Inhabitants. Even the professors of King William's
College had their charming evenings and scientific
and literary seances.

To these joyous, refined pleasure parties Lucia
went very simply dressed. She had not only the
social intelligence which warned her from overdress-
ing as intensely vulgar, but also the kindly nature
which led her to strictly avoid whatever appeared to
savor of a pretentious superiority. Yet, never had


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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe winning of Lucia : a love story → online text (page 14 of 19)